Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Amanda Marcotte is At it Again [Clinton Wilcox]

And by "it", I mean completely frothing off at the mouth about the "evil" "misogynistic" "anti-choice" movement. Ruth Graham over at Slate wrote a surprisingly well-balanced article about the more alternative pro-life advocates, such as Kelsey Hazzard (of Secular Pro-Life) and Aimee Murphy (of Life Matters Journal). Her article is called The New Culture of Life. This article also led the United States Library of Congress to contact various organizations mentioned in the piece, like Life Matters Journal and New Wave Feminists, informing them they've selected these organizations' webpages for inclusion in the Library's web archive focusing on public policy topics. Seriously, give it a read (note that I don't necessarily agree with all the statements made by the pro-life activists in that article).

True to form, Amanda Marcotte of Salon is not happy that someone would present pro-life people in a positive light, preferring to live in her fantasy world that pro-life people are all stodgy old men who want to control women's bodies. So she wrote a hit piece about the pro-life movement in response to Graham's article, called Hip to be Square: Is there really a feminist, secular anti-choice movement? (Spoiler: no). Clever, right? Not only is it a completely dishonest article, devoid of any serious research, it is also borderline libelous. Seriously, don't give it a read.

Marcotte's piece truly is painful to read. Not only is she completely dishonest about pro-life people, her lack of serious research is astounding. A number of pro-life people were mentioned in her article, including me. I'm going to set the record straight on Marcotte's claims about myself (and Rebecca Stapleford, who was mentioned along with me). I'll leave it to my friends to respond to Marcotte if they so choose.

Below, I'll quote the two paragraphs in Marcotte's article that directly relate to me:

As [Matt] Dillahunty pointed out to me, a "good chunk of [Secular Pro-Life's] blog posts are written by Christians/Catholics", showcasing exactly how difficult it is to drum up much interest among the non-religious for a cause devoted to meddling with other people's sex lives. A perusal of the Secular Pro-Life blog seemed to confirm this observation, with several blog posts being written by Catholics like Rebecca Stapleford and Clinton Wilcox.
Wilcox is one of the two Secular Pro-Life representatives that Dillahunty has debated. On his personal blog, Wilcox argues, "I, myself, have met people who said they did not come to Christ until after they became pro-life" and writes that anti-choice arguments are a good way to lure people into converting to Christianity.
There are at least a half dozen inaccuracies in just these two paragraphs, alone. Let's start with the fact that neither I nor Rebecca Stapleford are Catholics. I am Protestant. Rebecca is also a friend of mine. While she became pro-life as an agnostic, she is now an Evangelical Protestant.

Now let's talk about how she "perused" (does she even know what this word means?) the blog at Secular Pro-Life, found "several" articles by Rebecca and me, and apparently that was enough to conclude that a "good chunk" of SPL's blog posts were written by "Catholics". First, how much is a "good chunk"? If he means a lot, then sure. But what does this prove? It certainly doesn't prove that the majority have been written by religious people. In fact, most of the writers for SPL are non-religious. Instead of looking up how many articles Rebecca and I wrote, maybe she should have looked at who the writers are and compare their religious affiliation.

Now let's talk about her calling me a "representative" of SPL. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a representative of Secular Pro-Life. I do write articles for their blog and I walk with them whenever I attend the Walk for Life, but I am not a representative of their organization. Marcotte is confusing their willingness to work with religious people as their actually being religious.

I also made it very clear to Dillahunty before we debated that I am not a representative of SPL; I write for their blog and was interested in debating him. At no point did I claim to represent SPL. Whether Dillahunty told Marcotte this or Marcotte is assuming it is unclear. Either way, someone is being dishonest here.

Two more inaccuracies to note. She points to an article I wrote on my "personal blog", but the blog she pointed to was the Life Training Institute blog, not my personal blog. Additionally, she claims that I am deceiving people into becoming Christian by first making them pro-life. This, of course, is blatantly false. She is taking my words out of context and paraphrasing them to mean something I obviously didn't mean to any honest observer who reads my article. What I actually said is that my discussions on abortion naturally lead into questions of ultimate reality and human value, and that while sometimes you can convert an atheist to Christianity without talking about the pro-life issue, sometimes atheists need to know that we have reasonable answers to other issues before they take Christianity seriously.

Salon has never been a paragon of critical thinking, but it's truly mind-boggling that they would allow such a deceitful piece to be posted to their website. In just two paragraphs, Marcotte bungled many facts that would have been easy to verify. She also seems intent on painting the pro-life movement as inherently religious, but I wasn't aware the proposition "murdering a human being is wrong" is an inherently religious one. At least we can take comfort in knowing that they can't refute our argument that abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills an innocent human being, so they have to resort to name-calling and alarmist caterwauling.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Q&A: What Do You Say to the "Keep Your Religion to Yourself!" Objection? (Jay Watts)

This past weekend I was speaking to a group at Northwestern University from Students for Life of Illinois as part of that organization’s annual summit. I made the case for life appealing to the three-step strategy that I generally outline:

1)   Simplify the issue by focusing on the single most important question concerning the right or wrong of abortion, what are the unborn?

2)   Argue our case using science and philosophy. The science of embryology tells us that from the moment of fertilization the unborn are a whole, distinct, and living human organism. Philosophy tells us that there is no essential difference from the embryo or fetus that we once were and the more mature human we are today. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependence do not do sufficient philosophical work to explain why it was ok to kill us then, indeed it was a Constitutionally protected right, but that if someone did the same thing to us at this stage in our life it would be the worst moral offense one human being could commit against another human being.

3)  Argue well, in a way that aims to win people with good arguments and not merely to beat people down with information.

During Q&A, a young woman asked the following question: What do you do when someone says this all just your religious view and shouldn’t be pushed onto others that do not share your religion?

My answer:

As I understand that objection, it claims that the belief that all human beings share a common intrinsic dignity by virtue of what we and are owed basic duties and obligations, not the least of which is to refrain from killing them, is by its nature a religious argument. My response has three parts.

First, it isn’t clear that this is true. None of the arguments that I provided are religious by nature. There are atheists that would reject the suggestion that objective moral values require a theistic worldview. Sam Harris appeals to objective morality when he condemns the practice of female genital mutilation in certain Muslim cultures. He isn’t arguing that those cultures violate a western cultural norm, but that the practice itself is objectively wrong for all cultures. Atheists like Sam Harris and Michael Martin have worked hard to ground objective moral values in a non-theistic worldview precisely because they acknowledge the existence of those values. Whether I believe that they can succeed in doing so is irrelevant to this point. It can be accepted that an appeal to objective morality is not religious by its nature.

This leads me to my second point; I never mentioned my faith or personal beliefs as part of my argument. It is true that I am passionately and unapologetically Christian and that my faith informs every area of my life. So what? I never said abortion is wrong because God said so. People objecting to our case need to address the science and philosophy, not my faith. This argument commits either the Genetic Fallacy (the pro-life argument was birthed out of religious communities) or amounts to a plain old Ad Hominem attack (Jay is religious therefore he is wrong). Objectors have a responsibility to interact with the arguments presented regardless of who is presenting them or what motivation I may have for putting forth the arguments.

Dr. Condic presented the case for the identification of early human life as a new independent organism from fertilization. (Maureen Condic was also at this event. See her article here). I presented the philosophical case that the best explanation of our experience of a shared universal human dignity that transcends cultures and subjective interests is that our dignity and value are grounded in our humanity. Replying with, “Yeah, but religion..” hardly addresses either of those arguments. Put them back on the hot seat and make them answer the question, “What are the unborn?”

Finally, why do they get to decide without argument what considerations are allowed into the marketplace of ideas? Who empowered them to declare that secular humanist reasons and materialistic naturalistic reasons can be publically advocated, but so-called religious reasons cannot? I have the right to advocate for my beliefs and try to convince others that my views offer the best explanations and solutions to the questions we experience in our world. If they want to argue that their worldview is superior then they need to make that case, but they don’t have the right to make it in a vacuum where other competing worldviews have been shut out of consideration. 

In truth, they are inconsistent in their objection to religious reasons informing advocacy. Where is the handwringing when Bono dedicates his considerable influence to acquiring help for people in Africa suffering from Aids and poverty? He clearly states that his desire to help is born out of his Christian faith, and yet he is applauded for those efforts. When HBO’s documentary program VICE ran a story about George W. Bush committing U.S. aid to help Bono establish programs that transformed the manner that some African countries fought Aids, no one cried foul when Bush stated his and Bono’s shared Christian values were his motivation for action. It is only when we stand up against one of the sacred pets of the progressive culture like abortion that they suddenly demand a litmus test for having a public voice on issues.

In a nutshell, I will talk about what I want, when I want, wherever I want, and they better come with more than “Shut up because you are religious!” if they wish to stop me. They had better be ready to make their case, because I won’t be deterred from making ours.

(Note: This is the answer as I gave it. It was heavily informed and influenced by the works of Hadley Arkes, Robert George, Greg Koukl, and Scott Klusendorf. All credit where credit is due.)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Baby On Board [Clinton Wilcox]

I've spent the last week in England and will be returning to California tomorrow. It's been a wonderful week but I'll be happy to finally be going home. I will look forward to returning next year. The three articles I wrote this week were written in England (the first one in Battle East Sussex, the second and third in London).

As I was riding in the tube to get to a destination, I saw a pregnant woman wearing a button that said "baby on board". It's a rear windshield placard I used to see around here in California, but this one had the official logo of the Underground tube on it. The button was officially made by the Underground tube in a country in which abortion is legal up until 24 weeks.

This kind of thing underscores the extreme inconsistency in our cultures. In the United States, in some states if you murder a pregnant woman, you'll be tried for two murders, as in the case of Scott and Lacy Peterson. Yet if the mother allows the child to be killed, it is no longer murder but abortion. Wantedness or unwantedness should not determine one's moral status, yet in many countries, that is exactly the situation we have.

Whether or not a person is wanted is a completely arbitrary consideration for human value. There are many people who are not valued, yet it would still be wrong to kill them (e.g. homeless people are generally seen as drains on society, but we cannot kill them). These kinds of laws just underscore how dangerous it is to live in the womb in our societies. No society is safe unless that society grounds human value in the nature of the human being, not in some arbitrary property possessed by that individual.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Is Making Abortion Illegal Legislating a Religious Viewpoint? [Clinton Wilcox]

The pro-life position entails that since unborn human beings are full human persons at fertilization, if you kill an unborn human being at any point in his/her development, you are committing an act of unjustified homicide which should be forbidden by law. Of course, many pro-choice people believe, not having actually listened very closely to the pro-life argument, that the pro-life view is grounded only in a religious belief. So they respond that we cannot legislate a religious point of view into law.

Of course, they are correct. But what they miss is that we are not trying to force people to become Christians, or worship Yahweh, or pray the Lord's Prayer three times a day. If the pro-life argument is correct, that human beings are full human persons from fertilization, then the law of the land can reflect that. As I've heard LTI's president Scott Klusendorf mention in a debate against Malcolm Potts, the law does not have to take a position on the soul to make murder illegal. If the unborn are full human persons as adults are full human persons, then the law is justified in making abortion illegal, just like it makes infanticide illegal, and just like it makes murder of older people illegal.

Consider a Venn diagram with two circles that intersect (hopefully my mathematical friends will be proud of me). In the left circle is the set "God's laws," and in the right circle is the set "humanity's laws." In the middle is the intersection between the two. We are not trying to legislate something that is merely God's law into the law of the land (again, we are not trying to make people follow Christian rituals or worship Yahweh). We are legislating one of God's laws into the law of the land, both of which intersect. Murder, rape, and theft also oppose God's laws, but they are laws that we should also institute into the laws of the land. Abortion is no different, as it is the intentional killing of an innocent human person.

The pro-life position naturally entails that abortion should be illegal. If the pro-life position is correct, then our government has no moral choice but to make the act illegal.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Must We Convert the Culture to Christianity to End Abortion?

It seems every so often I run across someone on Facebook (rarely in personal activism) who asserts that we must convert people to Christianity in order to end abortion, or that we must share the Gospel at all times with people, whether or not we make pro-life converts. To do anything less goes against God's teachings.

This may sound super spiritual on the face of it, until you stop and consider that, as Augustine said, "wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his master" (On Christian Doctrine, II.18.28). Or as it is commonly paraphrased, all truth is God's truth. Whenever we share the truth about abortion, that it is the unjustified killing of an innocent human person, we are sharing God's truth. Now, it's possible that someone would only be converted after you share the Gospel with them and they come to understand the universe as God does. But it's also very likely that someone will not take the Gospel seriously until they hear a Christian give a reasoned defense of one of their positions in another sphere of knowledge.

I, myself, have met people who said they did not come to Christ until after they became pro-life. In fact, this is true of Bernard Nathanson, an atheist physician who founded NARAL. He became pro-life while still an atheist, then converted to Catholicism later in life.

I have been attending the Clarkson Academy in Battle East Sussex, England. At this conference Michael Sherrard gave a presentation. He is the pastor of a church, and one of the members of his church asked a friend from college if he'd like to attend church with her one Sunday morning. The parishoner's friend was an atheist who agreed to go to church with her because it was important to her. While there, Mike gave a presentation on the pro-life position. The friend was highly impressed with Mike's rational defense of the pro-life position, so the rest of the time the parishoner had with the friend while the friend was in town, he spent time asking important questions about Christianity. His parishoner's friend's interest in Christianity was only piqued because he heard Mike give a reasoned defense of the pro-life position.

The cold reality is that if we want abortion to end, but we think we have to always share the Gospel in order to do it, we're going to turn many people off. We'll never end abortion that way. Scott Klusendorf, in another presentation, reminded us that even the Bible says this: narrow is the way and there are few who find it. We could never possibly hope to end abortion if our only goal is to share the Gospel. If we really want to save babies, we have to be intentional about when we give a reasoned defense of the pro-life position, and when we share the Gospel. Many of my conversations on abortion naturally lead into discussions of ultimate reality, where morality comes from, and so on. But if that was my only goal, I'd never see an end to abortion.

Book Review: The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution by Jenna Ellis [Aaron Brake]

It has been over one year since the Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges, a decision which granted legal recognition and moral validation to same-sex “marriage” in the United States. While this decision was just one of many abuses fueled by the judicial activism of nine unelected judges, it was also a culmination of sorts in our culture’s ever-increasing slide into secular humanism over the last several decades. Many Christians marvel at how we have come to such a place in a nation originally founded on objective moral and biblical principles. More importantly, they wonder if there is still a way back. Enter Jenna Ellis and her book The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution.

Ellis is an attorney, professor, and legal analyst who uses her expertise in these areas to make a persuasive historical and legal case that grounds the authority of our nation’s Founding Documents in Divine Law, i.e., the discoverable, objective, unchanging law of God that includes both science and morality. As she explains, proper constitutional interpretation will be based on reading the U.S. Constitution in context, interpreting and applying the text correctly, while taking into account the original intent of the Founding Fathers. This of course assumes an objective, fixed meaning to the text, a belief many secular humanists want to replace with the idea of a fluid, changing Constitutional document possessing no authority higher than man himself. In so doing, secular humanists undermine their own position by ridding themselves of any adequate grounding for objective meaning and value judgments, the very things they seemingly wish to celebrate after the Obergefell decision. With no universal authority from God, all that is left is man-made government, and what the government giveth the government can taketh away. Secular humanists cannot have their cake and eat it too. This is why our Founding Fathers appealed to Divine Law in securing our inalienable rights, not a social contract.

If that’s the case, does this mean Christians should argue for a moral constitution based solely on the “personal faith” of the Founders? As Ellis convincingly argues, that would be a mistake. What we need is an objective, legal basis and attempting to establish Constitutional intent on personal beliefs does not get to the most important interpretative question when determining meaning: What does the text say? Unfortunately, this question has taken a back seat in recent decades due to judicial activism and the misapplication of judicial review (Marbury v. Madison), whereby the Supreme Court has usurped power and effectively elevated itself beyond its originally intended authority and scope into the unchecked, final arbitrator regarding the interpretation, application, and constitutionality of laws. With doctrines like judicial review governing our country, appealing to the “personal faith” of the Founders simply will not win the debate. We need to get back to the authoritative basis and correct interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and this begins by recognizing “that nearly all of the most prominent and influential Founders were lawyers.”[1]

Friday, September 30, 2016

Is Consent to Sex Consent to Pregnancy? [Clinton Wilcox]

In her book Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent, sociologist Eileen McDonagh argued that pro-choice people should move the debate from being about choice to consent. In other words, instead of arguing a woman has a "right to choose" abortion, they should be arguing that an embryo only has the right to a woman's uterus if she grants consent to the uterus, and only if consent is ongoing. She argued that sex doesn't make a woman pregnant, sex only creates the embryo, and it's the embryo that makes the woman pregnant. Since the embryo occupies the woman's uterus against her will, the embryo is essentially a rapist, or a parasite (or perhaps one of the aliens from Alien). Since the embryo is essentially a rapist, the state has an obligation to protect her from this invader in the same way the state would use the police to protect her from an actual rapist.

That's the thesis of her book, essentially. McDonagh has succeeded to some degree in changing the abortion debate to be about consent. I don't encounter this argument when I'm talking to a pro-abortion-choice advocate in person. But I occasionally encounter this argument in on-line discussions. It doesn't hold up to scrutiny, and it's not an argument that is seriously defended by most pro-abortion-choice people. It's more of an argument pro-abortion-choice people keep in their quiver as a backup.

The argument fails for a few reasons, mainly because it has a wrong idea of where to place responsibility for the pregnancy. It's true that sex creates the embryo, but what is missed is not simply that the embryo is too young to have any rational idea of what is going on so he/she is not morally responsible for implanting in the uterus, but the embryo also is not causally responsible for implanting in the uterus. The woman's body is. Once the embryo is conceived from the sperm and the ovum, tiny hairs in the fallopian tube, called cilia, then pick up the newly conceived embryo and transport it into the uterus, where it then implants. It is the act of sex, itself, that not only conceives the embryo but also causes the embryo to implant in the uterus since it starts a chain reaction of causes and effects that results in pregnancy. Any woman who consensually engages in sex is responsible, morally and causally, for her pregnancy (of course, the man is responsible, too, but I am focusing on the woman for the purposes of this discussion). Since she engages in an act that is intrinsically ordered toward procreation, she is, then, morally responsible for caring for any embryo that results from this union.

On top of tacitly granting consent to the use of her uterus by virtue of the fact she consented to the act that created the embryo and placed the embryo in a state of dependence upon her, this consent cannot be revoked. If the only way to remove someone from your property is to kill them, you cannot evict them. By way of analogy, if I allow someone the use of my house, I can revoke consent at any time. However, if I have granted that person consent to use my storm cellar during a tornado, I cannot then revoke consent until the tornado is gone and there is no danger. Even the idea of tacit consent can be seen here. Suppose "Weird Al" Yankovic's in town. I go to where he is appearing, then I drug his drink and take him back to my home, refusing to let him leave until he signs all of my CD's. But suppose I live in Kansas and in the midst of trying to get his autograph, a tornado touches down near my house. I can't, then, turn him out and say "tough luck, pal. You refused to polka with me, so my storm cellar, my choice." I now have a tacit obligation to protect him in my storm cellar because I have placed him in a state of dependence on me for protection.

Another argument sometimes invoked to make this point is if you get into a car and get into an accident, you consented to drive but you did not consent to being in an accident. The doctor will still heal the person, even though they consented to get behind the wheel.

This is, of course, true. But driving is not an act that intrinsically leads to getting in an accident in the same way that sex intrinsically leads to getting pregnant. If everything works as it is intended, then having sex will conceive a child. However, in driving, getting in an accident is an abuse of the intended function of the car. The intended function is to transport people and objects.

To reiterate, this argument is not a very good one. It is also easy to show why the argument doesn't work. It requires denial of the metaphysical reality of cause and effect, namely that sex causes pregnancy; it doesn't just cause the embryo. The embryo would not exist if the man and woman did not have sex in the first place.